A 69-page study titled ‘Freedom of Thought 2012: A Global Report on Discrimination Against Humanists, Atheists and the Nonreligious’has been released by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).
The report covers laws affecting freedom of conscience in 60 countries, and lists numerous individual cases where atheists were persecuted for their beliefs.
The report cited discriminatory laws that deny atheists the “right to exist, curtail their freedom of belief and expression, revoke their right to citizenship [and] restrict their right to marry.”
Other laws include “obstructing access to public education, prohibiting them from holding public office, preventing them from working for the state, criminalizing their criticism of religion, and executing them for leaving the religion of their parents.”
The report argues that atheists in Islamic countries – such as Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan – face some of the worst discrimination, including capital punishment. The study did not list specific recent executions, but claimed that capital punishment was often shifted into life imprisonment sentences, as in Afghanistan.
The publication of atheist or humanist views is strictly prohibited under blasphemy laws in countries like Bangladesh, Egypt and Indonesia, the report said.
In most of these countries citizens are required to register as participants of an officially recognized religion – usually Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Without this registration, citizens are not allowed to receive medical services, drive, attend university or travel aboard, forcing non-believers to lie.
Anti-atheist discrimination in North America and Europe
The report emphasizes that non-believers are discriminated against even in North American and European nations. In the US, “atheists and the non-religious are made to feel like lesser Americans, or non-Americans.”